The best locked-room mysteries with solutions you’ll never see coming

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been drawn to locked-room mysteries, the baffling mysteries where the crime looks truly impossible. The mystery becomes not only who did it, but also how. It’s the ultimate puzzle. The best locked-room mysteries include gothic elements that make you wonder if something supernatural is responsible, but then are resolved with a satisfying rational explanation—like Scooby-Doo for adults. I’ve written more than a dozen mystery novels, but until now, I’ve only focused on locked-room mysteries in my short fiction. In my new Secret Staircase mystery series, I’m focusing on these puzzles in my novels. Here, I’m sharing some of my favorite locked-room mysteries that feature truly ingenious puzzles. 


I wrote...

Book cover of Under Lock & Skeleton Key: A Secret Staircase Mystery

What is my book about?

An impossible crime, a family curse, and the intrigue of hidden rooms and secret staircases…. Stage illusionist Tempest Raj has had her career sabotaged and has moved back home to work for the family business, Secret Staircase Construction, a company that builds magical elements like sliding bookcases and hidden libraries into peoples’ homes.

But trouble follows Tempest home, and her former stage double is found dead inside a wall that’s been sealed for nearly a century, which is impossible. Tempest must figure out not only who’s guilty, but how they did it—while proving that the Raj family curse that’s plagued her family for generations, from India to Scotland to California, doesn’t exist.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Devil and the Dark Water

Gigi Pandian Why did I love this book?

Set on a treacherous sea voyage in 1634, this impossible crime is cloaked by an atmospheric setting. Is a demon hiding on the ship—or is there a very real killer stalking victims in the claustrophobic setting? This was unlike any locked-room mystery I’d ever read, and it was impossible not to get swept up in the adventure on the high seas. With detective Samuel Pipps accused of a crime and imprisoned in cramped quarters on the ship, it’s up to his bodyguard to act on his behalf and prove a human hand—not a demon—is responsible for the murder and mayhem aboard.

By Stuart Turton,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Devil and the Dark Water as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'If you read one book this year, make sure it's this one' Daily Mail CHOSEN AS A BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE GUARDIAN, SUNDAY TIMES, DAILY MAIL, FINANCIAL TIMES, DAILY EXPRESS AND i PAPER WINNER OF THE BOOKS ARE MY BAG READERS AWARD FOR FICTION SELECTED FOR THE BBC TWO BOOK CLUB BETWEEN THE COVERS AND THE RADIO 2 JO WHILEY BOOK CLUB An impossible murder A remarkable detective duo A demon who may or may not exist It's 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world's greatest detective, is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, where he…


Book cover of The Tokyo Zodiac Murders

Gigi Pandian Why did I love this book?

This brilliantly baffling fair-play puzzle by one of Japan’s leading mystery authors begins with a challenge. Two amateur sleuths have one week to solve a macabre crime from 40 years before. The result is a wild ride that gives all the clues to the reader, and a perfectly executed solution I never could have guessed. 

By Soji Shimada, Ross Mackenzie (translator), Shika Mackenzie (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tokyo Zodiac Murders as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'If you like your crime stories to be bloody and bizarre, then this one may be for you. The winner of several major awards... the solution is one of the most original that I've ever read' Anthony Horowitz

A bestselling and internationally-acclaimed masterpiece of the locked-room mystery genre

Japan, 1936. An old eccentric artist living with seven women has been found dead - in a room locked from the inside. His diaries reveal alchemy, astrology and a complicated plan to kill all seven women. Shortly afterwards, the plan is carried out: the women are found dismembered and buried across rural…


Book cover of Hercule Poirot's Christmas

Gigi Pandian Why did I love this book?

Many of Agatha Christie’s books are “closed circle” mysteries that are mistakenly referred to as locked-room mysteries, but Hercule Poirot’s Christmas is both. Poirot is on the case when a family reunion leads to a locked-room murder of the family patriarch in a locked bedroom at an isolated manor house. Everyone in the family hated the dead man, and Christie is delightfully witty as she plays with genre conventions. Though not one of Christie’s most famous novels, it’s a masterful mystery that deserves a spot with the rest. 

By Agatha Christie,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Hercule Poirot's Christmas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is Christmas Eve. The Lee family reunion is shattered by a deafening crash of furniture, followed by a high-pitched wailing scream. Upstairs, the tyrannical Simeon Lee lies dead in a pool of blood, his throat slashed.

But when Hercule Poirot, who is staying in the village with a friend for Christmas, offers to assist, he finds an atmosphere not of mourning but of mutual suspicion. It seems everyone had their own reason to hate the old man...


Book cover of Hag's Nook

Gigi Pandian Why did I love this book?

No author is more famous for writing locked-room mysteries than John Dickson Carr. Hag’s Nook is the first of Carr’s novels featuring Dr. Gideon Fell, who went on to become Carr’s most well-known detective. It features a family curse and an isolated English countryside home with a view of prison ruins on “Hag’s Nook,” a site where witches were once hung—and where the family curse is about to play out once more when the eldest son is required to spend an hour inside the prison to inherit the family fortune. Spooky and brilliant, this is a great introduction to Carr. I hope you’ll fall in love with it and go on to read many more of his books.

By John Dickson Carr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hag's Nook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The Starberths die of broken necks' goes the legend in the village of Chatterham . . .

The Starberth family governed the now-abandoned Chatterham prison for many years, and each male heir must spend the night of his twenty-fifth birthday there, alone, overlooking the hanging site of Hag's Nook.

Meanwhile, after a chance encounter on a railway platform, Dorothy Starberth and young American graduate Tad Rampole fall in love. Rampole is here in rural Lincolnshire to see Gideon Fell. The following day, Dorothy's brother is found dead of a broken neck, just as his father and grandfather before him.

Ingeniously…


Book cover of Angel Killer

Gigi Pandian Why did I love this book?

Multiple ingenious impossible crimes feature into the first Jessica Blackwood thriller by magician Andrew Mayne. A killer calling himself the Warlock claims to be using supernatural powers to perform deadly miracles, and only former stage magician Jessica Blackwood, now an FBI agent, can see through his tricks. Because magicians create misdirection for a living, they’re perfect characters to unravel seemingly impossible crimes. As a bonus, Jessica Blackwood is a terrific character you’ll root for. 

By Andrew Mayne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Angel Killer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Meet Jessica Blackwood, FBI Agent and ex-illusionist.

Called in because of her past to offer expertise on the mysterious 'Warlock' case, Jessica must put all her unique knowledge to the test as the FBI try to catch a ruthless killer.

Needing to solve the unsolvable, and with the clock ticking, they're banking on her being the only one able to see beyond the Warlock's illusions.

The first in a brilliant new series, Angel Killer will have you feverishly turning the pages, and in Jessica Blackwood, Mayne has created a complex, sassy and unforgettable new heroine.

'Professional illusionist Mayne introduces a…


You might also like...

Empire in the Sand

By Shane Joseph,

Book cover of Empire in the Sand

Shane Joseph Author Of Empire in the Sand

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a writer for more than twenty years and have favored pursuing “truth in fiction” rather than “money in formula.” I also spent over thirty years in the corporate world and was exposed to many situations reminiscent of those described in my fiction and in these recommended books. While I support enterprise, “enlightened capitalism” is preferable to the bare-knuckle type we have today, and which seems to resurface whenever regulation weakens. I also find writing novels closer to my lived experience connects me intimately with readers who are looking for socio-political, realist literature.

Shane's book list on exposing corporate, political, and personal corruption

What is my book about?

Avery Mann, a retired pharmaceuticals executive, is in crisis.

His wife dies of cancer, his son’s marriage is on the rocks, his grandson is having a meltdown, and his good friend is a victim of the robocalls scandal that invades the Canadian federal election. Throw in a reckless fling with a former colleague, a fire that destroys his retirement property, and a rumour emerging that the drug he helped bring to market years ago may have been responsible for the death of his wife, and Avery’s life goes into freefall.

Does an octogenarian beekeeper living on Vancouver Island hold the key to Avery’s recovery, a man holding secrets that put lives in jeopardy? Avery races across the country to find out, with crooked bosses, politicians, and assassins on his tail. Joseph spins a cautionary tale of corporate and political greed that is endemic to our times.

Empire in the Sand

By Shane Joseph,

What is this book about?

Avery Mann, a retired pharmaceuticals executive, is in crisis. His wife dies of cancer, his son’s marriage is on the rocks, his grandson is having a meltdown, and his good friend is a victim of the robocalls scandal that invades the Canadian federal election.

Throw in a reckless fling with a former colleague, a fire that destroys his retirement property, and a rumour emerging that the drug he helped bring to market years ago may have been responsible for the death of his wife, and Avery’s life goes into freefall.

Does an octogenarian bee keeper living on Vancouver Island hold…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in private investigators, secrets, and the FBI?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about private investigators, secrets, and the FBI.

Private Investigators Explore 284 books about private investigators
Secrets Explore 248 books about secrets
The FBI Explore 113 books about the FBI